As I transition into my new role as Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, I acknowledge that I have been so fortunate to work with a special group of dedicated people at Firehouse® who jokingly say they would follow me into a burning building without gear. The firefighters, fire officers, fire chiefs and others from throughout every sector of the fire-rescue service I have met and interviewed from across the country and around the world always made me feel right at home. Even though I sometimes need the services of interpreters, as when I interviewed responders in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the DuPont Plaza Hotel fire and the fire chief from Chernobyl, Russia, we understand one another. We are all firefighters; we just speak different languages.
In the 38 years since Firehouse® Magazine was founded, we have covered some amazing incidents. Some made it to print and others are just memories. In each case, a fire department had to respond to extinguish a fire or mitigate another type of emergency, help its constituents and become better after reviewing and sharing the lessons learned. We have been privileged to provide the latest information on major events, strategy and tactics, close calls, fire technologies and so many other topics. Hopefully, we have touched many lives and prevented a few line-of-duty deaths and serious injuries with our coverage along the way.
We have come so far in these past few decades. We have been there every step of the way as the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Underwriters Laboratories and the National Institute of Standards and Technology work to provide the latest knowledge and options to the fire service so firefighters are more aware and educated to the changes that have taken place, and so that “Everyone Goes Home.”
Imagine what our lives would be like today without the technologies we did not have in when I started my fire service career in 1972: computers, cell phones, thermal imaging cameras, UHF and other frequencies, computer-aided dispatch, apparatus exhaust systems, sophisticated vehicle extrication tools, apparatus-mounted cameras, mobile digital terminals and fully enclosed cabs. Today, a cell phone charger is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a firehouse.
I worked at The Great American Firehouse® Exposition and Muster in 1984. Becoming the program director in 1988, we have had a terrific combination of education and reports from the most significant incidents of the day: Mike McNamee, the first chief to arrive at the Worcester, MA, cold-storage building; Captain Jay Jonas of FDNY Ladder 6, who was trapped in the World Trade Center’s North Tower; responders to the Rodney King Riots and Malibu brushfire; the Oklahoma City bombing; injured military veterans; “Black Sunday”; the Father’s Day Fire and much more. At the conferences, people described me as a talent scout and a real estate agent – recruiting the best speakers and providing them with rooms to present their programs.
Years ago, Firehouse® was called “entertaining” while the competition was called “educational.” Jeff Barrington and I have worked for years to recruit the right mix of writers to provide you with the best education and training information we could find. My greatest accomplishment has to be the book WTC: In Their Own Words. When I first heard stories from that day, I knew I had to capture that history for those studying the disaster, even 100 years from now. It was my own personal tribute to the 90-plus FDNY members I knew who died that awful day.
At all of the incidents I covered and the industry events I attended, I worked to attract new talent to write and speak for us from across the fire service and reviewed thousands of fire photos. Working hand-in-hand with the fire service has made this job something special. When I was a fire chief for 12 years, I knew that someday someone else would eventually take over, so I was prepared. I am prepared today to move on with another chapter – not leaving, but just taking another vantage point. Again, I could not have done all that I have accomplished without the support and friendship of so many. Thank you all.
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2014 firefighter line-of-duty deaths at press time.
2014 residential fire fatalities at press time.